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For the Relief of Unbearable Urges: Stories Paperback – March 21, 2000
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Their acceptance as acrobats was a stretch, a first-glance guess, a benefit of the doubt granted by circumstance and only as valuable as their debut would prove. It was an absurd undertaking. But then again, Mendel thought, no more unbelievable than the reality from which they'd escaped, no more unfathomable than the magic of disappearing Jews.Another story, "Reb Kringle," is almost breezy by comparison. Each year, one Brooklynite dreads his holiday job from hell, playing Santa Claus in a Manhattan department store: "There were elves posted on each side of Itzik; one--a humorless, muscular midget--wore a pair of combat boots that gave him the look of elf-at-arms. His companion might have been a twin. He wore black high-tops but had the same vigilant paramilitary demeanor." Itzik can put up with the children's accidents and greed, with his sciatica, and even with a mischief maker's attempt to cut off his beard. But when one boy admits that what he really wants to do is celebrate Hanukkah, "the infamous Reb Santa" loses it. Though this is undoubtedly the collection's lightest piece--proof positive that you have to be a saint to be a Jewish Santa--it is no less piercing an examination of identity and obligation than Englander's more heavyweight entries. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
A really beautiful book, whose deep suggestion reminds some paintings by Marc Chagall (see especially the second tale).
It is a pity that the Italian translation is not adequate.
The inside of the dust jacket is misleading - the title story, "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges", is called "hilarious". Despite this, the praise is flowing (and you don't know differently, anyhow) and you are drawn into the stories between the covers. What do you find?
Writing that is masterful, but misdirected. A voice that is shockingly mature, incongruous with the photograph of the handsome boy on the cover. Stories that are obsessed with persecution, whether by the government or by loved ones or by one's peers or one's church. Few of the characters within these pages are unencumbered by expectation, by disappointment, by disillusionment.
You search the book for the "hilarious" story foretold and find the sad, pathetic tale of a man sexually rebuffed by his wife and given a special dispensation by his Rabbi to visit a prostitute "for the relief of unbearable urges". The result turns the tables on the poor fellow, but is not amusing. You continue reading; the last story, "In This Way We are Wise", contains the poetic, oddly beautiful, ruminations of a bomb-blast survivor and his sorrow at having lived. You are illuminated by the beauty of the prose, you are destroyed by its message.
You may enjoy reading about the Jewish experience, writers such as Roth, Singer, Bellow. Depending upon your focus you may read quite a bit of this literature or perhaps only a smattering in the New Yorker. You find that Englander glazes his prose with Judaica to the point that everything here is deeply flavored with it, so no matter how much or how little you read, you taste the culture of the Jewish people, whether they be modern Jews in Israel or Holocaust-era Jews in Poland.
You walk away enlightened, impressed, but perhaps a little depressed, too.